No Place to Place
Between 2015 and 2017 about 70 high tech entrepreneurs sensing the market potential of bicycle sharing rushed into the business. They raised a massive amount of investments able to put around 27 million bicycles in all major cities across China. Each shared bicycle brand used a distinct colour to differentiate its bicycles from competitors. Yellow, red, blue to start with, but soon all colours of the rainbow, yes, even golden bikes were spotted on every street-corner. The concept behind bicycle sharing and solving the idea of the “Last Mile” problem was widely welcomed.
One example, the yellow one to be precise, was Ofo, the Beijing-based bicycle sharing company founded in 2014. Its business model was praised as one of the “Four Great New Inventions in Modern China” by Chinese state media. In 2017, it had deployed over 10 million bicycles in 250 cities and 20 countries with a company valued up to $2 billion US dollar. By the beginning of 2019 the company was as good as bankrupt leaving its ownerless bikes on the street. The sheer quantity of shared bicycles soon began overwhelming public space and their degradation had become such a problem that the government ordered them to be removed.
Photographer Wu Guoyong filmed and photographed the share bike cemeteries often in abandoned fields in the outskirts of 20 cities resulting in his series No Place to Place. Funny enough the photographs breath a sense of beauty like a field of blooming tulips. But thats obviously not the only side to this story, as the photographer pointed out himself: “Shared bikes as useful, but the cemeteries expose a moral problem in the landscape of China. We’re throwing away bikes! That just doesn’t seem right.”
Wu Guoyong (b. 1963, Xiangyang, China)
Photographer Wu Guoyong started after a long career in hydraulic engineering in Shenzhen. Heeding the advice of notable Shenzhen-based photographer Li Zhengde who taught him how the camera could be wielded to ask social questions. His spectacular photographs of the share bike graveyards, just like his drone video, have gone viral around the world. In 2018 Wu won the “Annual Visual Award” hosted by Tencent, China’s largest Internet company.